Exxon Mobil appointed activist investor Jeff Ubben and former Comcast Corp. executive Michael Angelakis to its board following investor criticism of the oil giant for its environmental record and poor financial performance.
The additions bring the number of directors on the board to 13, with seven joining since 2016, Exxon said in a statement. Bloomberg News first reported Ubben was being considered for the role last month. Exxon rose as much as 5.1% in New York trading.
The contributions of Ubben and Angelakis “will be valued as ExxonMobil advances plans to increase shareholder value by responsibly providing needed energy while playing a leadership role in the energy transition,” Exxon Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods said in the statement.
Exxon has long attracted criticism for its persistent focus on fossil fuels and unwillingness to commit to zero carbon targets but those attacks intensified recently after it racked up losses.
The company is embroiled in a proxy battle with activist investor Engine No. 1 which has taken the board to task over both its approach to climate change and poor track record of capital allocation.
In 2020, the stock lost 41% and the company incurred its first annual loss in at least four decades. Years of elevated spending on new oil and gas operations left it highly exposed to the crude price crash caused by Covid-19. Exxon also recently wrote down $19.3 billion of assets and reduced its reserves by almost a third.
D.E Shaw, another Exxon investor that has pushed for changed, welcomed the appointment of the two directors, saying that they would add “significant capital markets and capital allocation experience” while “navigating the transition to a low-carbon future.”
Engine No. 1 said in a statement it’s still moving forward with its proxy contest.
“While ExxonMobil has now conceded the need for board change, what is missing are directors with diverse track records of success in the energy industry who can position the company for success in a changing world,” it said.
Ubben founded ValueAct Capital Management two decades ago. He left ValueAct in June to launch Inclusive Capital Partners, which is focused on investing in companies with a social or environmental angle. Ubben resigned from the board of power provider AES Corp., the company said Monday.
Angelakis led strategic planning at Comcast and oversaw the company’s “successful transition into media and other technologies,” Exxon said.